Looking after your gerbil
Housing Gerbils require about 100 square cm per animal and are best kept in a purpose built plastic cage or aquarium. Wooden cages and protruding plastic will be chewed. Metal bars can cause abrasions if they are chewed or burrowed into. A temperature of 15 – 21 C is preferable. Gerbils like to burrow and dust bathe so a deep layer of sawdust, sand. wood shavings or shredded paper should be provided. A bedding of wood shavings, hay or synthetic bedding should be provided. Gerbils are fairly clean and produce very little smell so cages should be cleaned out at least once a fortnight. After puberty (40 days) unfamiliar animals will fight and thus gerbils are best kept singly or as pairs from a young age. Gerbils are nocturnal.
Feeding Commercial gerbil, rat or mouse food is best but may be supplemented with a limited amount of apple or greens. Fresh water should always be available, a drip feed bottle is best and it should be checked daily.
Handling Frequent handling helps make them friendly pets but care should be taken as they can move very fast although they rarely bite. Picking them up by the BASE of the tail or in cupped hands is best. Since they move quickly, and the tail may slough if it is grabbed, they are probably better pets for older children.
Reproduction Gerbils can breed from 10 weeks of age and they can breed throughout the year with an oestrus cycle of 4 – 6 days and a gestation period of 24 – 26 days (can be up to 42 days). Females can produce a litter every 30 – 40 days of 4 -6 young which are usually weaned at around 21 days old. Males can be left in the cage with a pregnant female.
Lifespan Gerbils live for 3 – 5 years.